Mommy Makeover Part 1: Making the Decision and Planning Ahead

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PART 1: Making the Decision and Planning

I am sharing one of my Instagram posts below from before my surgery as I think I covered most of the main "answers" to the "why are you doing this" question. I also have A LOT more photos documenting the whole process on my Instagram story called "MomMakeover", so I definitely encourage you to hop on over there and check it out. In the meantime, I will elaborate on the journey from start to finish here on the blog as well. Feel free to comment, ask questions or email me privately. Go to my Contact page for all the ways to reach me.



This body has carried 4 babies. This body has been a competitive gymnast, diver, swimmer, and a professional carrier of things (kids, groceries, shopping bags, laundry baskets...). It has been thin. It has been big. Healthy and strong. Ill and weak. This body is mine and I am proud of it.

With that said, this body is one I would like to improve. After 4 babies, not only did my thyroid crap out (hello Hashimotos and hypothyroidism!) but my skin and muscles suffered damage as well. I was blessed with deep stretch marks that pulled so tight they remain thin purple streaks across my entire stomach. My abdominal muscles were quite literally ripped apart with each pregnancy (diastasis recti). My belly button diminished into itself leaving behind a hole where I had 2 hernias that needed repaired. Child bearing is no joke! While I wouldn’t take any of it back for a minute - and I know just how lucky I am to have been able to experience the incredible miracle that is pregnancy and childbirth - it doesn’t change the fact that my confidence has suffered.

I’m at a point in my life where I have the time and energy to prioritize my health. My body. I’ve decided to revisit cosmetic surgery. A “mommy makeover” if you will. And before you start thinking that this choice is selfish, unnecessary or just plain stupid, I ask that you keep that to yourself. Believe me, I’ve already had and considered the very same negative thoughts.

I haven’t come to this decision lightly. In fact I had this exact surgery scheduled 4 years ago but chickened out and cancelled. I tried hard to make peace with my body as is. I did. But this is where I am. I’m okay with it. My husband is okay with it. And honestly, that is all that matters.

After a few consults with 2 of the best plastic surgeons in our area, I am excited to have come to a decision. I will be booking surgery next week to take place in the fall. I will be sharing each part of this journey. Whether you are considering a mommy makeover, have had it done, or just simply want to see the transformation, I hope you will follow along!
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Deciding to share this journey publicly was also one I did not come to lightly. Before I posted anything on social media about it, I thought long and hard about who I wanted to reach and why. I immediately thought of the numerous Google searches I did in preparation to make the decision to have this surgery. I probably watched hundreds of YouTube videos of others who had had it done. I was soaking up the information from every place I could - both online and by talking with those who were not ashamed to say they too had a "mommy makeover". 

All of those were so valuable in helping me make my decision and knowing where to go once I started to move forward with it. I knew that by sharing, I would eventually be able to help someone else who like me, struggled with whether or not this was the right choice for them. 

With that said, my older two boys are on Instagram (read about our Family Technology Guidelines here). Some of their 10 and 11 year old friends follow me on that platform so I am always very aware of what I share. 

I remember snapping the photos below in the mirror with the intention of sharing them as my "before" pictures on Instagram. Of course it was something I was nervous about - simply because who likes to showcase their imperfections online in that way. But I then started thinking less about myself and more about the people who would see it. My husband works at a large local professional business. My kids would see it and may die of embarrassment. What would they think? I thought it was important to get their input. 



I texted the photo to my husband at work. "Would you be embarrassed if I shared these photos on Instagram?" His immediate response, to my surprise, "not at all. you are beautiful babe and have nothing to be ashamed of". Okay, so I moved on to my oldest son. I went into his bedroom and showed him the pictures. "If I shared these on Instagram, would you be okay with it?" Again, a surprising response, "No. I mean it's your page. Do what you want." I felt like I had to at least tell him why I was asking, reminding him that some of his friends follow me and would see it. "Who cares," he shrugged. I was both shocked and proud. Next, I talked it over with Aiden. He just giggled and said "why do you want to post that?" I explained that I wanted to share my mommy makeover journey and part of that would be showing what my stomach looked like before vs. after. He giggled again and had just one small request. "Can you not show your top part, like, in your sports bra?" 

So I cropped my chest out of it and said "is this okay?" He said yes and that was that. I honestly thought one of them would urge me not to...so getting all of their blessings made it a little bit easier to push post. I mean why should I be embarrassed? It's my body and for all the reasons I listed above I should embrace it as part of this process. 

At that point I had already come to my decision to have the surgery. In fact, I had already consulted with 2 local surgeons as part of my research. Here is how that all went:

-- Scheduled initial consult appointments - had to wait a couple weeks to get in as both are busy plastic surgery practices.

-- Day of appointment - I was SOO nervous. It's pretty vulnerable to be wearing nothing under a gown knowing that when the doctor comes in, you will have to open it up and bare all. They have to feel, push on, move things around and get a look from multiple angles. Talk about uncomfortable. But then you have to remember that they do this multiple times a day every day of the week so it's not like it's nothing they've never seen before. I had done some research and had a few questions for each doctor (see "DO YOUR RESEARCH" below for my suggestions).

-- After consults - I met with 2 surgeons and while they were very different in terms of bedside manner and personality, both were great. I knew from their reputations that both were also very good at what they do. I laid out the pros and cons for each doctor and weighed that list in my decision making process. 

-- Scheduling surgery - Once I came to my decision on which doctor I would go with, I contacted the office and let them know. I was able to schedule my surgery for about 6 weeks later. Writing the date down on my calendar (and putting it in my phone) was surreal. I mentioned above that I had already scheduled this very procedure once before 4 years earlier, but then cancelled it when my nerves got the best of me. This time I felt much different. I was in a better place for sure. My kids were all a bit older and I was pretty much past the carrying a baby around on my hip stage.

-- As surgery day approached - I was excited for sure. It was hard for me to picture my body any different than it had been for almost 11 years, but I was no longer second guessing my decision like the first time around. With that said, I was EXTREMELY nervous and often had to put it out of my head as thinking about it would almost make me want to throw up. People would ask about it and I'd literally say "I can't talk about it" and move on to another subject. Even so, I knew the fear was natural.

-- Surgery day - The big day was finally here! I had childcare lined up and coordinated all the logistics of managing a busy household of 4 kids. I bought a HUGE weekly calendar and basically wrote down their schedules hour by hour - what time to wake them up for school, what they eat for breakfast, what time the bus comes for pick up and drop off, what activity they had after-school and thus what time each needed to eat dinner - the whole 9 yards. Not because I doubted whomever would be doing it in my absence, but rather because it made me feel like I was doing my part as a mom. After all, I was told that I would be down with little to no activity for at least 2 weeks. Ricky was taking the first few days off work to be home with me and manage the kids, then he was leaving for a scheduled work trip the following week so my cousin was flying down from Chicago to juggle it all. The morning of surgery my mom was there so Ricky could be with me at the hospital. I kissed my babies and sent them out the door for school, then headed on my way!

I will share more from surgery day and beyond in my next couple posts! Until then...here are some of my tips and recommendations for up to this point in the process:

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH - There are many ways to do this. Scour the internet (but carefully consider sources). Read all you can on the subject to learn best practices. There are scholarly journals (that may be too much medical jargon), YouTube videos, hashtags on Instagram that can point you in the right direction. Talk to others who you know have had the same procedure. You'll also want to read reviews from others who have experience with the particular doctors you are considering. 

2. MAKE A LIST OF QUESTIONS - Start compiling a list of questions you have so that when you meet with the various surgeons (and I recommend meeting with AT LEAST 2, but probably 3 or 4 would be best) you will not forget any of the important ones. I wanted a tummy tuck and a breast lift without implants. Here were some of mine:
  • How many years have you been doing this? 
  • What are your complication rates?
  • Can you explain exactly what is done during the procedure? 
  • Do you use drains? 
  • Do you operate in a surgery center or at a hospital?
  • What can I expect for recovery?
  • How long before I can work out?
  • Will my bra size change with just a lift?
  • When can I drive?
  • How much does it cost? 
  • Do you offer financing?
  • Do you offer any discounts for paying upfront?

3. PLAN YOUR SCHEDULE WELL IN ADVANCE - Managing a household or working outside the home take a TON of effort. When one parent is down (or the only parent in a single-parent household), straying from the schedule and relying on others can be daunting. Making sure you have the appropriate amount of time off work and enough help to handle the logistics of your family will prove to be SUPER important. Having a written calendar to lay out schedules is helpful. Communication is key. When deciding on your surgery date, look at your kiddos school calendar to determine any big projects that might be due or special activities that you may not want to miss.

4. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DIET AND EXERCISE ROUTINE PRIOR TO SURGERY - Most surgeons will recommend that you be at your "ideal weight" by surgery day. For many, that is just tough to do. The main reason behind this however is so that you don't come in overweight, expect to have surgery for weight-loss reasons, then be unhappy with your results if you a) don't come out looking thin and trim or b) lose a bunch of weight after surgery which would affect your results. It is a good idea to start and/or continue making healthy diet choices so you at the very least don't gain weight prior to surgery. Having healthy habits will make your recovery easier as well as give you results you are happier with.

5. PURCHASE RECOVERY ITEMS AND SET UP A RECOVERY SPOT - (See my Instagram story "MomMakeover" for photos that show my recovery spot and supplies.) I purchased a soft fabric recliner on a local buy/sell page for $100 months before my surgery. I knew from my research that I would likely not be able to sleep in bed for several weeks post-op. I also bought a small table that was easily accessible next to the recliner that included a USB plug-in attached to the top so I would have to fish for cords that fell next to me. You will want to pre-fill your prescriptions and have those close to your recovery spot too (you'll get the rX's at your final pre-op appointment). Below are links to products similar to those I bought ahead of time. (Please note, these are affiliate links through Amazon. Any purchases made through these links allows me to earn a very small commission.)


6. FIGURE OUT YOUR PAYMENT OPTIONS - This procedure is not cheap. It is an investment you are making in yourself however, and I feel it is worth every penny. Discuss the cost upfront with your chosen surgeon. They should have an assistant who can walk you through your payment options. Most do not accept insurance (as these are typically elective procedures), but there are a few financing companies that plastic surgeons offices usually recommend. We financed my surgery through CareCredit which offers specific terms of repayment for a pre-determined period of time (usually 24-48 months).

7. DON'T HESITATE TO CONTACT YOUR SURGEONS OFFICE ANYTIME - If you've chosen a good surgeon with a good team, it will not be a problem at all to reach out with questions anytime prior to (or after) your surgery. I thought I had everything covered during the consults, but then thought of a hundred more questions afterwards. I was able to email with a nurse as often as I needed to discuss things as they came to mind. Good communication is very important, so make sure you pay close attention to this during the initial selection process.

*If you are in the Louisville, KY area (or beyond!) and are interested, the surgeon I chose was Dr. Nana Mizuguchi. You can read more about his practice, Mizuguchi Plastic Surgery, via his website: https://nanamd.com/. I highly recommend him and his entire team!

The Challenges of ADHD: What I Want Others to Know

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One might think that in the land of medical diagnoses, Apert syndrome may be more challenging than ADHD. One would be wrong. (In some ways, anyway.)

Sometimes we go days without giving Apert syndrome another thought. When surgeries aren’t looming and social interactions are positive, I may even go as far as to say we “forget” Aiden even has a rare craniofacial condition. But ADHD? It’s a giant struggle each and every day.

I don’t often talk about the challenges we face with it because it seems so commonplace. Everyone either has a child with ADHD or knows someone who does. However when I think back to before we got the “formal” diagnosis and how I was at my wits end thinking “what am I doing wrong???” I decided that sharing some of the characteristics might help someone else who may be where I was 4 years ago.

Just the other day, while sitting in the waiting room of my child's psychologist, I thumbed through the book "Smart But Scattered"[1] that I pulled from the resource library. After reading the first few pages it was as if they had written about Aiden himself! The authors describe a familiar scene - telling your child to clean their room - and how that plays out for someone with ADHD. Not only is the room a disaster to begin with (because it's ALWAYS a mess), but the amount of time spent in there is minimal before they become completely overwhelmed and beg to do it later.

Okay so you may be thinking “what kid enjoys cleaning their room and does it without a fight?” True, it’s not an uncommon family struggle. But the key difference is that it is not limited to just the task of cleaning his room. It could be something as simple as telling him to brush his teeth or hang up his coat that would elicit a full-fledged foot stomping, throw-himself-to-the-ground meltdown. The more complex the task, the bigger the response.

Dealing with behavior like this is exhausting - for both parties! I would try to reason, reward or redirect each time to no avail. And I would always end up thinking “how can I be raising such a brat?” or “what am I doing wrong???” My other kids were able to regulate their emotions and follow simple commands with far less push-back so it did not make sense. I would seek feedback at school in the early years, sure that his teachers would recognize the same behavior problems we dealt with at home but they would always say he is a good kid who listens well. Good news for most, but so frustrating for me as it was proof that he COULD behave for others and yet was CHOOSING to misbehave for me.

Something had to give.

When Aiden was in 2nd grade, his teacher and I discussed the possibility that we could be looking at ADHD. I was never one for jumping into medication as a solution and still wasn’t educated enough about ADHD to know if that’s what we were dealing with definitively. At one point, however, his teacher suggested it may be a good idea to have him formally evaluated. I scheduled an appointment with a child psychologist who specialized in ADHD.

The testing consisted of a few questionnaires - one to be completed by his teacher and one by a parent - as well as a full day of evaluation in the psychologists office. There were online assessments, IQ tests, and observations of emotional and social reasoning skills. A couple weeks later the results were calculated and a follow-up appointment was set to discuss. I remember walking in and asking “well, does he have ADHD?” I’ll never forget her response. The psychologist said “Not only does he have it, the severity is pretty significant”. I burst into tears and she put her hand on my shoulder to comfort me. “It’s okay,” she said, “we will
figure it all out.” However I wasn’t crying out of fear or disappointment. I was crying in relief. All this time I wondered why he couldn’t just behave! And now I knew it wasn’t his fault or mine. The diagnosis meant there would be a course of treatment to improve things. Amen!

Right after the relief, I immediately wondered "where do we go from here?" Still hesitant to medicate, I began researching ADHD a little more. By the time 3rd grade rolled around, we had  updated his IEP to include the diagnosis, implemented fidgets in the classroom, and put a clear plan in place as to how the teacher would help redirect Aiden when he would get off task. It worked for a while, but it became clear that those measures simply wouldn't be enough. His grades were being negatively impacted due to attention and focus issues and he was becoming a distraction to his peers. We collectively agreed that perhaps medication was the next step. 

I started to research again and came across information about a genetic test that would help determine which ADHD medication would be best suited to Aiden's particular genetic makeup. Unfortunately, most of those tests were not covered by insurance and the out of pocket cost was more than $1000! One of the labs I spoke with directly told me to look into an over the counter version that was offered at some local drug stores. I called around and found that Rite Aid had the test! It was a simple swab, done right there in the store, that was then sent off for the genetic results. So I hurried to Rite Aid and had it done immediately for just $75. (Which was a good thing because I heard shortly after it was discontinued there and wouldn't be offered anywhere).

A few weeks later the results were received! It clearly labeled each type of ADHD medication and color coded them according to which ones were recommended for Aiden. This gave us a perfect starting point on which medication to start with. I say starting point because as I would learn very quickly, even with this extra information, ADHD medication is highly individually sensitive. What works for one child will definitely not work for every child. And furthermore, what works for one child may not work for that SAME child several months later. Getting the type and dosage right would prove to be quite an ongoing challenge. 

Aiden is currently on Vyvanse daily and a small dose of Adderal Monday through Friday at school. We recently added a new "medical food" supplement called Vayarin as well. We have to monitor the potential side effects - trouble sleeping, weight-loss (he cannot afford to lose any at all as he is currently on the very low end of the growth chart), moodiness, etc. and with frequent communication with his teachers, we are doing our best to manage ADHD in a way that will help him succeed both at school and at home.

I share all of this so that others are aware of and able to recognize some of the characteristics of ADHD in their own children or in others and to help people understand that:
1) ADHD is a neurological deficit - it isn't "made up", it isn't meant to excuse poor behavior and while some may say it is "overdiagnosed" that doesn't mean it isn't a very real condition for many.
2) Medication isn't a cure-all for ADHD, but it certainly can help. Don't be afraid to try it! I was hesitant for YEARS...and then once I saw how having the proper medication helped Aiden reach his potential in the classroom I felt guilty that I waited so long. 

3) Treating ADHD requires a LOT of patience and isn't an exact science. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. It will take a combination of doctor visits, therapy, interventions at school, medication and diet changes and the amount of each needed will constantly change.

I continue to research ADHD so that I can learn how to best help my child. One day he will spread his wings to fly and building the foundation now to give him the skills he needs down the road is the least I can do. Most importantly, Aiden will always be more than his diagnoses. Apert syndrome has never defined him, and ADHD will not either. No matter how frustrated I get every time I tell him to clean his room...

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[1] Peg Dawson, EdD, Richard Guare, PhD. “Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary "Executive Skills" Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential.” New York, NY: The Guildord Press, 2009.

Click here to purchase "Smart but Scattered" on Amazon using my affiliate link. By doing so I will get a small commission which helps me to keep this blog up and running. Thank you!

Mark's Feed Store Famous Bar-B-Q: A Review

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I'll admit, living in Texas for 3 years set the BBQ bar high. We knew how good we had it there and struggled to find anything that measured up once we moved back to the Bluegrass state in 2013.

I had visited Mark's Feed Store several times while living in the Highlands during my college years at Bellarmine. It was good, but admittedly I hadn't been back but maybe once since then. Last week, however, we took the whole family out for lunch. This is a challenge for us for several reasons: it's expensive to eat out for a family of 6, we have several food allergies to consider, and in general our kids are picky eaters. But when Mark's Feed Store invited our family to come for lunch, we were excited to give it a whirl.

Their motto is "Friendly Folks Servin' Famous Bar-B-Q" and I can confirm that the folks were indeed friendly and the Bar-B-Q was definitely delicious (famous, too, if you take into account the 11 "Best of Louisville" awards bestowed upon them by Louisville Magazine readers. We visited the Middletown Location on a Sunday afternoon and it was buzzing with patrons. I always get a little anxious dining out with our crew because the kids can be loud, they get up from their seats a lot, and they require oodles of tic-tac-toe games to keep them occupied. So I was happy to see they had a large table in the front part of the restaurant that sat a little separate from the main dining room. Also a relief was the paper kids menus with activities and the most darling crayon holders you ever did see. And Tuesday's Kids Eat FREE so even though the restaurant is always family-friendly, you would definitely be in good company on any given Tuesday :)


Having just started a Paleo diet in attempt to lose some weight and get back on the Gluten-Free train due to my thyroid condition, I did a little menu research ahead of time. I was pleased to find the menu had clearly marked Gluten-Free items (avoids the whole awkward asking the waiter at the table thing). And as far as Paleo...well, cavemen basically ate meat and veggies, both of which are plentiful at Mark's Feed Store! I'll admit I was a little jealous when they ordered the wings to start as they are fried (so not paleo-friendly), but I did cheat a bit by pulling some of the meat off the bone and dousing it in their honey sauce. Yum!

We all ordered various things from the menu then split it up so we could each try a little of everything. The kids menu was simple, including all the staples most kids enjoy. Best of all, it is one of only a handful of sit-down restaurants where kids can eat for UNDER $5. AMEN! Perhaps that is why they most recently earned the "Best Family-Friendly Restaurant" award in Louisville for 2018. (Did I mention that Kids Eat FREE every Tuesday at all Mark's Feed Store Location?? Can't beat that!)

I was anxious to try the brisket, as that is one thing in particular that we LOVED at most Texas BBQ joints. Ricky loved that it was moist and included a hefty bark on the end. I enjoyed the generous serving size - there was definitely enough to share! I chose the green beans and baked sweet potato as my side. Both were really yummy (and I'm super picky about baked sweet potatoes...in my opinion it is hard to get them cooked just right, but this one was!)

The rest of our orders included the pulled chicken, pulled pork, ribs and chicken fingers with fries. Even the kids meal portions were generous -- more bang for the buck for sure! We were all stuffed...so we asked for the dessert menu to order something to go. The boys chose Oreo Banana Pudding. When they opened the container for "just a peek", they decided they somehow had room to eat it there. It must have been good because a few second later it was gone!

We were all around pleased with our visit and would definitely recommend checking out a Mark's Feed Store location near you. There are 6 convenient locations throughout Kentuckiana.

As a BONUS -- Mark's Feed Store has generously donated a Mark's Family Pack to one lucky More Skees Please reader. This includes:
  • 1.5 lbs of Pork
  • 1 Quart of Red Potato Salad
  • 1 Pint of Mark’s Original Sauce 
  • 6 Buns 
  • 1 Quart of Baked Beans

    *Meat and side options can be substituted; additional cost may apply.*
Visit Mark's Feed Store or More Skees Please on Instagram to learn how to enter! 

**I received compensation for this post, but, as always, my opinion and photos for all reviews are 100% honest and my own. 

Family Technology Guidelines

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A few years ago, Ethan asked us if he could create an Instagram account. I believe he was 9 at the time and in an effort to put the subject matter off in the moment, I may have said "when you're 10". It didn't get brought up again.

Well, wouldn't you know that within minutes of us showering him with "Happy Birthday"s and a special 10 year old breakfast request, Ethan reminded me that I said he could get Instagram when he was 10. And here we were.

As someone who uses social media regularly in my every day life, I felt like I needed to address the topic with him in a fair and balanced way. I stayed true to my word and allowed him to download Instagram to his iPod, but spent quite a bit of time helping him understand the benefits and risks of sharing online, whether in a private or public way.

We talked about general rules, things not to do, photos not to publish, etc. and I felt comfortable granting him that privilege. After all, Ethan was (and still is) quite mature for his age.

Once Aiden caught wind, his eyes got big. "So I can get Instagram when I'm 10?" Now Aiden is not quite as mature for his age as Ethan, but how can I say no to one and not the other? I left my response much more vague this time "We'll see," I said.

And...here we are. On the eve of Aiden's big double-digit birthday and guess what he's been talking about all day? Instagram.

Our family is very "connected". My kids have televisions in their bedrooms, iPads, Kindles, iPods. Basically as Ricky and I have upgraded our devices, we've either passed our old ones down or at the very least kept them to give to the kids at some point down the line. My kids all know how to find their way around passwords and YouTube searches - and were pretty good at it even at the young age of 3! 

While we have always made it clear that having this access to technology is a privilege, it started to become overwhelming setting and sticking to consistent rules surrounding time limits, parental controls and ensuring privacy. I did a little research last year and came across a device called Circle by Disney. It is a small box that we connect to our home wifi that allows me to take care of all of that in one place. I created a profile for each child, linked their individual devices to their account, and from there I have set bed-times, usage times, restricted websites, games and apps, and am also able to access how they spend their time online. It has been a LIFE SAVER for my sanity - and has wreaked havoc on theirs ;) 

(By the way, this is NOT a sponsored post in any way. Simply sharing what has worked for us!)

Tonight, with Aiden anxiously awaiting access to Instagram tomorrow, I knew I had to come up with a clear-cut way to communicate the rules for our household. I finally went back through all my saved posts on Pinterest on this very subject. There are so many great resources, examples of contracts, and suggestions for explaining the risks of being online to kids of all ages. 

I pieced ours together with what works for our family and thought I would share for anyone who may also be feeling the pressure of kids using technology and social media at younger and younger ages. 

Click on the image to make it larger and/or zoom.
Or you can download the PDF file HERE.

MomLife Louisville || House of Boom!

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This post is looooong overdue and I could list eleventy-billion excuses for why it hasn't been written yet, but the short and long of it is that I simply haven't gotten around to it. But today, as Aiden is getting ready to turn 10 (on Sunday), I was reminiscing about this past year and everything he has been through. One of the very biggest highlights from before his major surgery was being able to throw an awesome "Super Aiden" going away party of sorts before we left for Texas.

Back in May (yes, May 2017), we invited all of our nearest and dearest neighborhood friends to celebrate with us at House of Boom. We booked their "Boom 10" party package that included the below:

  • 1 hour flight ticket for each guest
  • exclusive use of party room for 45 minutes after jumping
  • party hostess to assist with setup and cleanup
  • table cover, plates, utensils, cups and napkins
  • t-shirt for the party guest of honor
  • grip socks for each jumper

This wasn't anyone's first visit to House of Boom and as usual, everyone had an awesome time. It is the PERFECT place for active kids to get their energy out while having fun! Because House of Boom is pretty much a wide-open space, parents can find a spot on one of their benches or a comfy couch in the upper observation deck and have a full view of each area. But usually, you'll find parents tagging along with their kids and joining in on the fun! 






If you want to visit House of Boom on your own outside of a party, they offer 60, 90 and 120 minute flight passes every day of the week. Peak times do sell out so it is recommended that you book your tickets online in advance and arrive 15 minutes before your flight time. They also offer a $3-4 discount for jumpers under the age of 7. Each jumper needs to have a waiver on file and kids 13 and under have to have a parent on the premises at all times.

I recommend booking a party outside of peak times simply because when it gets crowded it can be a little overwhelming for little ones and the wait times for some of the activities gets kind of long. There is a trapeze where kids can swing and fall into a pit, a ropes-type ninja course, a tight-rope across a pit and an area to bounce and flip into a foam pit as well. Aiden's party was on a Sunday evening at 7pm and we pretty much had the place to ourselves!



As a busy family with 4 boys, going to House of Boom is always suggested when we have some downtime in our schedule. And I have to say, it is usually a win-win because not only do they have fun, but they are thoroughly worn out when all is said and done so bedtime is a lot easier :)

* I received a complimentary House of Boom party package through a partnership with  USFamilyGuide.com. We were so grateful for the opportunity to use the party for this purpose before Aiden's surgery. As always, all opinions are honest and my own.

MomLife Louisville || Bear Paddle Swim School

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I know we just got through Christmas, and spring break may not be the next thing on your mind, but the only thing that is going to get me through this cold weather is counting down the days until we are on the beach again.

As the boys get older and more active, I am beginning to purge some of the toys they no longer use. So for Christmas, I asked my mom to buy less "stuff" and give more "experiences". Nolan had a few trial classes at Bear Paddle Swim School here in town and after the first class I was so impressed that I suggested my mom consider gifting the boys lessons to prepare them for all our time by the pool and in the ocean in a few months. Can't beat the practicality!

Aiden, Hudson and Nolan were THRILLED when they opened their swim package at Nana's. My mom recruited my niece to make super cute certificates which she included inside along with a skill-patch towel, a Bear Paddle teddy bear and a hooded beach towel. They are so excited for their sessions to begin in January.


What makes Bear Paddle so great? 

I had never heard of Bear Paddle until just a few months ago when they reached out to me about their new location in Louisville off Hurstbourne Ln. When we went for our first visit I was impressed with the facility. It was clean, bright, welcoming and warm. We were greeted by their friendly staff and given a tour. Afterwards we headed to the family changing area to get Nolan ready for his class. There were numerous private stalls for changing, a large grouping of lockers to keep belongings and a few swim suit dryers for after class so you don't have to toss dripping trunks into your bag to bring home. And because I'm a moderate germophobe, I'll mention again that it was very clean, which is always a huge plus in my book.

Before getting in the saltwater pool, kids are supposed to walk through a "Kiddie Car Wash" - a water shower area - but Nolan refused, so I wasn't sure he would even step foot in the pool for the lesson. Luckily, he warmed up to his instructor pretty quickly and got right in.

The gentle and fun approach that Bear Paddle uses to teach basic swim skills was perfect for Nolan. They sing songs, splash, and have the kids pretend to push the instructor in the water which always got a lot of laughs. The small lanes have a platform at the other end so the kids can stand up and catch their breath when they turn around. Genius! They worked on putting their faces in the water, getting their heads wet, floating on their back, kicking and paddling, and even getting out of the pool on the side by themselves, something I never really even thought of needing to teach!


At the end of the first class Nolan was sad and couldn't wait to come back. And once the other boys heard Nolan got to go swimming, they wanted to get in on the fun. Ethan, my oldest, swims independently, but if he ever wanted to participate, Bear Paddle also offers classes beyond the fundamentals, helping them learn and master swim strokes, flip turns and other competitive skills.

Bear Paddle also offers swim camps and pool parties. Nolan turns 4 February 1st and he has already decided he wants to celebrate with friends at Bear Paddle.




I highly recommend you check them out! For more information, visit Bear Paddle's website or give them a call and ask for your free trial class today. Only 3 months left before spring break, so get those little ones ready by helping them become confident swimmers, and helping give you peace of mind!

**I was given complimentary Bear Paddle swim lessons in exchange for social media sharing. As always, my reviews are 100% honest. 

2017: Facing Many Changes

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I clearly remember the anxiety that overcame me the minute the ball dropped last New Year's Eve. Once we said goodbye to 2016, it meant we were entering "the year that Aiden would have his midface surgery". It became real. We had to start saying "this year" rather than "in the future" when discussions on the subject would come up. The anticipation for this part of his journey had lingered for so long that the build up almost broke me.

In February we got a date confirmed for the mid-face advancement procedure and an official countdown began. My emotions were strapped in tight on the scariest roller coaster you could ever imagine. Most of the time I would be okay to function normally, participate socially, smile freely. But underneath the surface my nerves were shot. 

My health suffered. I felt like a failure as a mom because there were so many moments I had to lock myself in my room to cry. The stress took a toll on my body and I bounced around from doctor to doctor begging someone to figure out why I felt like a 36 year old woman trapped in an 85 year old's body. 

And yet time didn't stop, May 19th still steadily approached.

As someone with a type-A personality, always wanting to plan things and control the outcomes, the unknowns that surrounded the major procedure my 9 year old son was going to undergo left me feeling completely out of sorts. I found a wonderful therapist who was worth every penny, but even that was no match for the craziness that swirled about my head on a daily basis. I used to be someone who kept a clean house, stayed on top of the laundry, meal-planned and cooked healthy dinners several nights a week. Someone who loved to write. Someone who felt pretty confident in her abilities to be a decent mom and manage the chaos that is mothering 4 boys under 10. 

In April, we went on spring break with a group of friends. For the second year in a row we had 14+ kids and 12 adults sharing a large beach house. It was totally crazy and definitely fun, but every second felt like I was watching it happen through the lens of "what-ifs". Every photo I took of the boys playing carefree in the sand was snapped with a lump in my throat and the gruesome thought "what if this is the last time we are on the beach together as a family of 6". 

My friend Cara happens to be an amazing photographer so when I asked if she would take our family photos that year in Destin, she happily obliged. I remember applying makeup to my sunburned face and having to put my mascara on last because of the tears I cried thinking that these would be the last professional pictures we would have as a family before Aiden's surgery. The last photos we would have of Aiden the way he was then. My mind raced, "What if these were the last family pictures with Aiden we had...ever?" 

 
Photo Credit: Caroline Couture Photography


May began and we tied up loose ends. Everyone rallied around our son with Super Aiden t-shirts, care packages and lots and lots of visits with friends and family. And then, on a sunny morning in mid-May, we said our good-byes, kissed the other boys and piled in the car careening towards the biggest unknown of all. "What if Aiden doesn't come home?"
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Handing him over was still just as difficult as it always is. Ricky and I sat silently in the family waiting room but our hearts spoke through the worry on our faces. "Please let him come back to us."

In just 4 short hours the surgery was complete and although we still had several weeks of enduring the RED device, my biggest fear subsided. I started to breathe again. He was okay. We were going to be okay. The first few weeks were the hardest. He was sad, not himself. Who could blame him. When he began doing cannonballs into the pool we knew we would make it through this too. The days were slow but the weeks flew by and before we knew it we were heading back to Dallas for the removal of the device. The final weight to be lifted off our shoulders.
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Adjusting to Aiden's new look was slow at first. We had so many mixed emotions as we stared at a boy who looked one way 8 weeks earlier and totally different now. He bounced back quickly and had a new sense of confidence which made it easier for us to accept the change.

It wasn't long after things settled down that I finally took time to care for myself. I was eventually diagnosed with Hashimotos thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that affects the function of your thyroid. I had been on medication for hypothyrodism for years but the underlying issue was (and may have always been) Hashimotos. With a clearer diagnosis, a new endocrinologist, some new medication and significant diet changes, I started on the right path to feeling better. 

Although the surgery was behind us, I think I underestimated the time it would take for my mind and heart to heal. For many more weeks, months even, I felt like I was treading water, never able to make it to the edge for a break. I wasn't drowning anymore, but I was definitely still having trouble keeping my head above the splashes that even just a back to "normal" life surrounds you with.
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My 2017 "Best Nine" photos from Instagram (the pictures with the most "likes").
Clearly indicates what our biggest event from this year was!
Visit @MoreSkeesPlease on Instagram to follow our family.
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Looking back, this entire year has mostly been a blur. There were so many good moments - wonderful friends that lifted our family up in ways that I'll never quite be able to adequately express gratitude for. Family who literally put their lives on hold to help us sort ours out. And the overwhelming relief of a successful surgery and smooth transition from Aiden before the RED to the new Aiden after the RED. 

My strength and resolve was tested for sure, but with the love from those closest to us and even the support from complete strangers who prayed for a little boy they have never met, I'm happy to say I have found a renewed faith in God. My mind feels clear and my heart at ease. I am ready to take on 2018. Oh so grateful for the both the valleys and the peaks. Oh so grateful for this crazy beautiful life.

What Is the Mid-Face Advancement Surgery and the RED device?

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102 days from surgery.

A friend asked me the other night, "So what exactly will they be doing?" As many times as I've talked about this procedure, I surprised that I found myself a little stumped on how to answer. I can tell you what the device is called, how it is attached, what the purpose of it is...but anything more in depth gets a little fuzzy. So I went to Aiden's surgeon's website and pulled information that can explain it much better than I can. Below is a summary that answers some of the most common questions I receive about this procedure.


  • The LeFort III brings the entire midface forward in one piece from the upper teeth to just above the cheekbones and the monobloc brings both the midface and the forehead forward together at the same operation.
     
  • Although the LeFort III is a major operation, of all the different procedures done for Apert syndrome it has the greatest impact on normalizing a child’s appearance and improving breathing at night.
  • In 1998 [Dr. Fearon] developed what is called a halo-distraction technique for the LeFort III. This technique utilizes a device called the RED, which is actually not red, but purple in color. It gets its name for being a Rigid External Distraction device.
  • With the RED procedure the bones of the mid face are cut loose then the skin is closed and a halo is attached to the outside of the skull with 8-10 screws. A splint (U-shaped piece of plastic) is attached to the upper teeth and two wires extend forward from this splint to attach to the halo.
     
  • The forward pull of the midface comes from the dental splint. The parents, or the child, turn two screws on the device 2 to 3-times day in order to slowly (and painlessly!) bring the midface forward.
  • The children are allowed to eat soft foods, may go to school, and can even go swimming while wearing the RED. For some children wearing this device after surgery is easier than for others.
  • Seven to eight weeks later, the device is removed with a 20-30 minute anesthetic.
  • The greatest advantage of the RED device is that it enables surgeons to move the midface much further forward than is possible the traditional technique (based on a study done at our center).
  • We have treated over 125 children with this technique, and continue to make fine improvements in this procedure.

Below are some photos shared with permission from friends in the craniofacial community who's children have undergone the RED surgery already. 





If you have any questions, please know that I am always happy to answer them! I may have to look it up myself, as I'm no expert on this by any means, but I will never be offended by the opportunity to learn and share. Just be warned that I do get emotional talking about it in person...so perhaps email would be better ;)

Feeling Blue About the RED

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105 days.

That's how long sits between now and the day that our little boys face will be changed forever. As most of you know, Aiden has something called Apert syndrome. Along with the more than 12 procedures Aiden has already had, kids with Apert syndrome more often than not require what is called a mid-face advancement because the portion of their face from their brow bone to their upper jaw does not grow at the proper rate. The goal of the mid-face advancement surgery is to pull that section forward gradually. It is medically necessary in order to expand the airway in order to prevent apnea (and thus developmental delays), to address anatomical issues with the palate (which affects speech and sometimes eating), and finally, to "improve" physical appearance.

Improve physical appearance? That one kind of hurts my heart because, you see, I don't think Aiden needs his appearance improved one bit. I think my little soon to be 9 year old boy, who has had his skull broken open and pieced back together more than once, is perfect just the way he is.


I remember sitting in Dr. Fearon's office 8 years ago listening to him tell us what the typical treatment plan is for individuals with Apert syndrome. Along with sharing about the procedures to separate their fused fingers and toes, I clearly recall him casually mentioning this mid-face advancement, done around age 8 or 9, and thinking 'thank goodness we don't have to worry about that for a long time'.

And yet here we are, 105 days away, no longer a long time.

Our last trip to Dallas was fall of 2015. It was our craniofacial clinic where we bring Aiden for a round-up of appointments to check his growth, how much space his brain has in his skull, and monitor his sleeping to see if his apnea has progressed. We spend a full day bouncing from one specialist to another before finally heading to Dr. Fearon's office for his interpretation of all the tests. Because we were approaching Aiden's 8th birthday at the time, we fully expected to start the planning process for the mid-face advancement to be in May of 2016. But, we were surprised when he said that Aiden was doing well enough to postpone for another year. Nothing can describe the wide range of emotion we felt hearing those words: relief that he was doing so well, excitement that we would get to spend another summer surgery-free, and yet, also disappointment knowing we would have to endure the anxiety of anticipating this major surgery for yet another year.

We have been blessed to spend the past few years without having to put Aiden through any major procedures. In fact, he has been doing so well that I ultimately began to question whether Aiden would need the mid-face advancement at all. I had always been told that it wasn't a matter of if, but a matter of when. We would know when he needed it if he was not sleeping well due to snoring, if he was not breathing well, especially when sick with a cold, and if he was being severely made fun of because of his appearance. Now I know more goes in to it than that, but after thinking each of those things through, it became confusing to me. Aiden slept fine and rarely snored, he was able to stave off a cold in a normal amount of time (and in fact rarely got sick anymore at all), and although he does still get his fair share of stares and comments, I wouldn't call it severe teasing by any means. I was actually convinced that Dr. Fearon would say Aiden didn't need the RED afterall. In a moment of panic, I emailed him requesting a firm explanation on exactly why this is medically necessary FOR AIDEN specifically.

I'm sure I wasn't the first concerned parent to request more reassurance - and it felt good to seek a better understanding as Aiden's advocate. Dr. Fearon replied the next day with a thorough explanation. Our hopes for Aiden to escape the need were dashed.

We have been preparing ourselves in many ways over the past few months. Aiden regularly goes to a child psychologist whom he really trusts and feels comfortable opening up to about how he's feeling. I too have sought out a therapist to help me deal with my emotions as well. We talk about it only when Aiden brings it up or we need to, which is unfortunately becoming more and more often. We lean on our close-knit support group of other craniofacial families who's children have already had this procedure before us. One of our dear friends, John, actually boxed up his removed RED device and shipped it to us across the country just so Aiden could check it out closely first-hand. He along with numerous other kiddos have offered to answer questions on what to expect or any other topic Aiden might want to ask about. And I can't tell you how many times I've sat in a parking lot conducting my own kind of therapy session chatting on the phone with another cranio mom who knows exactly how it feels to be where I am right now. My goodness how all of these things have been and will continue to be life-lines to us. So very grateful.

Surgery is confirmed for May 19th, 2017. That gives us 105 days to soak up our little boy just the way he is. To prepare our hearts for the changes that are to come. This is a hard road, but we know we will get through it because we are not alone.

Frisch's Celebrates Long-Standing Sponsorship of the Cincinnati Ballet's Nutcracker with Holiday Edition Dessert

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Nothing says the holidays like peppermint flavored desserts and watching the Nutcracker. Luckily, I got to kick off this season with exactly that!

Frisch's restaurants is celebrating their long history of community support as the Cincinnati Ballet's primary sponsor of the Nutcracker. Dating back to the very first performance in 1974, the Frisch's and Nutcracker relationship is one of the longest-lasting examples of corporate sponsorship in American arts history! Wow, that's impressive!
As part of the partnership, Frisch's worked with members of the Cincinnati Ballet to launch a Peppermint Hot Fudge Cake. This first-ever holiday edition of its best-selling dessert is only available for a limited time. The original fudge cake has never been offered in another flavor until now, but don't worry, you can also still get the classic version at all Frisch's restaurants as well.

My sister and I started off the night at the Covington Frisch's with a special tasting of some of their comfort food staples like meatloaf, carved turkey, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and dinner rolls. After cleaning our plates, we watched as Chef Greg Grisanti assembled a Peppermint Hot Fudge Cake tableside. I'm not normally a big peppermint fan, however I have to say that I enjoyed every bite of this delectable dessert. I was pleasantly surprised!

Following dinner, we headed across the river for opening night of the Cincinnati Ballet's Nutcracker. There's just something about twinkly theater lights and adults and children all dressed up that makes me feel in the holiday spirit. I cannot remember the last time I saw the Nutcracker - I'm sure I did on a school field-trip as a child - but regardless it felt like a brand new experience to me.

Everything about the show was impressive. The scenery, costumes, the music and the performers were flawless. This would be a fantastic event to add to your holiday traditions...starting the night out with dinner at Frisch's of course!


DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary food and ballet tickets and was compensated for my time. All opinions, as always, are my own.
 

Greater Cincinnati Holiday Market is THIS WEEKEND!!!

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Every year for the past 8 or 9 years, my mom, sister and I have gotten together for a day of shopping and fun at the Greater Cincinnati Holiday Market. I drive up to NKY in the morning and we all go together to start (or if we're doing really good, finish) our Christmas shopping. It is so much fun that not even being on bedrest while pregnant with Nolan stopped us from keeping this tradition - they wheeled me around in a wheelchair!

This is SUCH a large show, with more than 300 boutique vendors selling both locally made and other unique items. From clothing and jewelry to food and sweets, there truly is no shortage of gift ideas for every person on your list!




A few tips:

  • They offer VIP tickets for early shopping on Friday.
  • There is a no-stroller shopping time to make it a less cramped with the crowds, so be sure to check the schedule online so you don't show up with your little ones in tow during that time.
  • They sometimes offer a free shopping bag at the door to carry your purchases while shopping, but there were a few years that didn't happen, so I would bring one of your own just in case.
  • Plan to spend a couple hours for sure - bring snacks or extra cash to eat at one of the food vendors they have available. The food selection has gotten better over the years!
  • Don't wear your winter coat! No matter how cold it is outside, leave it in the car. It gets pretty crowded...you won't need the layers.
  • Don't be afraid to ask vendors to take less. I have had some success negotiating in the past, especially if I'm buying multiple items from someone.

Add this event to your holiday plans every year. Make it a girls day - grab your girlfriends/sisters/grandmas/etc and shop til you drop! They even offer a bar if you want to quench your thirst with a nice glass of wine or a frosty beer. How cool is that?

Cannot wait to get my shopping on this weekend with my favorite people :)

Visit their website for all the information including admission prices, where to buy tickets (Cincinnati area Kroger offers a $3 discount) and where to park. Or follow them on Facebook for sneak peek pictures and ticket giveaways!

DISCLOSURE: I was given 3 tickets in exchange for helping them get the word out about this year's event. All opinions are, as always, truthful and my own.